Party experts’ one perfect tip for your holiday party

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You are your own party planner to the stars, and we wouldn’t hesitate to join your celebration. But: isn’t it nice to have good help? We talked to two celebrity party planners (and one legendary host) whose business is literally pleasure. Rebecca Gardner of Sugarplum Pop-up is known for posh and punk soirees, Chinese takeout on fine china, and other fantastical evenings. Fiona Leahy’s parties are the toast of New York Fashion Week—and truthfully, are a lot more fun than the clothes. Martina Mondadori Sartogo of Cabana hosts parties worthy of the jewel-box interiors she features in her magazine. They’re here to show you a good time, so we kept it brief: we wanted to know their one tip for a successful party. It turns out, one’s all you need.


Candles: Food52 , Photo: Belathée Photography for Anyhoe Park, Portrait: Fiona Leahy


Fiona Leahy: Make it festive and cozy, and do it with lots of lights. I think the best Christmas parties are defined by great lighting: go absolutely crazy with candles and string up as many fairy lights as you can fit. It’s the last time of the year to go over-the-top, so flick the switch, put on Wham’s “Last Christmas,” and go wild.


In fact, keeping a very rustic Yuletide atmosphere helped Leahy find a silver lining in party storm clouds on the horizon:


Once, I was producing a party and on the very day of the event, the venue had a power cut. I sprung into action: I gathered all the candles I could, hired a live folk band, and ordered in takeout fish and chips. It turned out to be one of the most charming and fun events I’ve ever thrown. Low lights and a sense of shared making do gave the party a brilliant energy, and when the lights came back, it turned into an amazing disco evening.


Mount Gay Rum: Crown, Green glass: Sugarplum Pop-up, Photo & Portrait: Rebecca Gardner


Rebecca Gardner: My one tip for a successful Christmas party is Martha Stewart’s Classic Eggnog. It’s a nostalgic recipe, it’s very beautiful as it’s being served, and it is very, very strong. Serve this to your guests and the evening is likely to end with an enthusiastic rendition of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”


Mixing is a watchword here, it turns out.


Vintage Ceramic Bulgarian Plate: 1stdibs, Wine glasses: Moda Operandi, Lifestyle image: Filippo Pincolini for Vogue, Portrait: Noa Griffel


Martina Mondadori Sartogo: The real key to success is all in the mix of your party. Mix the crowd, mix your table settings and mix a few of your personal holiday traditions with entirely new elements when it comes to food and drink. This will keep you from being repetitive and predictable.

It’s the spice of life, after all.


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It’s getting lit over here. Invite friends over with some of our holiday invitations.